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Living in lockdown has meant new ways of working for many of us. But despite the challenges, we are seeing some great innovations to ensure continuing support for those who need it.

Across Kent, we have nine CAPs, working with local partners to reduce alcohol harm to young people.  One of those is the charity We Are With You (formerly Addaction), which provides free, confidential support to young people experiencing issues with drugs, alcohol or mental health.

Meetings would normally take place in schools, youth clubs or places where the young people feel most comfortable.

So what are they doing to adapt and cope without these physical meetings?

Nick Hickmott, North Kent Team Leader for the charity, says they are continuing to offer support to young people but now they are using telephone or video chats which are proving very popular. The team is hoping to set up a local messaging service and to pilot digital group sessions - and are also looking into the possibility of meeting up for socially distanced ‘walk and talk’ sessions.

In addition, he says the Parent Partnership Programme across Kent has never been busier. Parents and carers of young people who are misusing substances can call for 'drop in' style support or refer for scheduled sessions.

We Are With You also has a national webchat where young people or families can get online help and advice instantly if they are worried about their own or someone else's drinking or drug use or their mental health: https://www.wearewithyou.org.uk

Nick says the innovations they are putting in place are generating a positive response – and are allowing the charity to continue to offer prompt support and avoid a backlog of cases. There is currently no waiting list in the area.

He adds: “It’s vital that young people feel comfortable about accessing our services - and we’re finding that although referrals dropped initially they are now stable with really high attendance rates for the sessions, which is encouraging. There have been over 20,000 visits to the online advice pages since February and the webchat use is far higher than last year. We’ve had a lot of learning but it’s opened the doors to new ways of working in the future.”

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Since this project was delivered there have been dramatic changes in the behaviour of many of the children. This has meant that, for example, three children who were on the verge of exclusion are now fully engaged in the life of the school. The children talk very positively about the work that they completed with CAP and the project generally.

Ridge Community Primary School, Lancaster

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